Rolling Back Prices: Why is America’s favorite billionaire on food stamps?

Why would the world’s largest company be considered for government subsidies?
Why would the big-box retail giant Wal-Mart, with $256 billion in annual revenue and $9 billion in straight profit, need government assistance to operate its businesses?
My case worker would laugh my poor ass out of the office if I had numbers like that.
I tried once to receive government assistance. As a student, I have to live at or below the poverty line. Groceries are a stretch, yet government programs have refused to offer me any public assistance.

If only I were a powerful corporation, perhaps I could garner some form of public assistance, a tax break, income tax credit, or the like. I asked for $100 a month to help cover groceries and was refused.
Wal-Mart has received a documented $1.008 billion dollars in government subsidies since the early nineties. The actual figure is surely much higher, because only a few states require the disclosure of most subsidies.
Over 90 percent of its distribution centers received some form of government assistance, sometimes as much as $48 million with the average deal being somewhere around $8 million. That’s only distribution centers. Its 1,156 stores and all 2,074 of its Super Centers’ records are so opaque that the one study on the matter had to go by newspaper stories and hearsay.
When Wal-Mart comes to town, for whatever reason, local governments see potential jobs entering their community. While there are hundreds of jobs available in the average Wal-Mart store, these jobs are often seen as a reason to reduce property taxes (the source of public education funding) and provide income tax credits (the majority of which are undisclosed), grants and lots of free goodies that cost tax payers, such as free land and costly improvements to local infrastructure. If a giant store is sitting on an open lot and not paying any taxes or taxes at a dramatically reduced rate, the potential income is lost and will be lost for as long as a Wal-Mart occupies the location. In the 175,000 to 225,000 square feet that one Wal-Mart Super Center occupies, several smaller retailers could build shops and pay taxes that contribute to the community and build a stable, sustainable local economy.
There are hundreds of jobs that go along with every new Wal-Mart, but why so many? There are many areas that need employees in a Wal-Mart store, and they all need employees working 39 hours a week or less. Any full-time employee requires health benefits, and with an endless stream of uneducated labor, who needs to pay benefits?
With the area’s largest retailer not paying any taxes toward public education, the uneducated workforce grows with every falling price tag.
These uneducated workers are working just under the maximum number of hours that an employee can work without health benefits. Someone has to pick up the burden, and in many cases, it’s the government once again. Public health assistance covers the asses of Wal-Mart’s 1.6 million employees, because the company fails to provide health insurance to 53 percent of its workers. Wal-Mart employees are the top recipients of taxpayer-paid health care.
Still, if an employee is lucky enough to last with the company after six months and earn health insurance, their choices are pitiful. They can either pay astronomical premiums, or have to pay impossible deductibles. “Wal-Mart touts the low cost of its health-care options; however, the plan described also includes a high annual deductible. Associates must pay $1,000 in medical bills each year before Wal-Mart coverage begins.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/16/05]
So what’s it to you? The fact of the matter is that every dollar is a vote. Who do you want leading your local economy?
Another Wal-Mart store is scheduled to be built in Murfreesboro, and you don’t have to take it sitting down. Conservatives and liberals both have a reason to be upset?liberals for the company’s poor labor policies, and conservatives for the company living as a virtual leach on America’s bloated public assistance programs.
Know where you stand and know how the company affects your community.
? Nate Cougill


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